C.W. Gusewell


Oh, to be flushed with success

“The rich are different from you and me,” says one of the characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby .


But the difference isn’t just that they have more money.

Their sanitary needs are a great deal more complicated.

Some of them have a toilet that, upon sensing their approach, automatically raises the cover from the heated seat, plays music of their choosing and dispenses a room-freshening fragrance – of lilacs, one might hope.

When the visit is concluded, the apparatus considerately bathes and blow-dries the user’s underside and, upon his or her departure, silences the orchestra and closes the lid without having to be told.

Without question, it’s a wonder! In fact, this fixture may very well represent the ultimate flowering of the capitalist system – the pinnacle of luxury that the future huddled masses arriving on our shore will be yearning to achieve.

The damned thing, I’ve read, costs $6,400.

Now these are difficult days in the newspaper racket. But I suppose even a paid-by-the-word wretch like me could hold out hope of one day piecing together the down payment for one of those machines, called a Numi.

It’s not the price alone that holds me back, though.

I am a man only one generation removed from the outhouse.

My father grew up in a stony stretch of poor farming country where the “convenience” – a mocking term for it – was a small wooden shed with a crescent moon sawn in its door.

In earliest childhood, the ghastly installation caused me to dread occasional visits to the familial homeplace.

But terrible as that was, the Numi alarms me even more. For I read that it must be programmed using a touchpad, something like an iPhone.

I am a helpless innocent in the digital age. We have two digital alarm radios in our bedroom, and I can’t program either of them.

A man I once knew – a devoted environmentalist – was determined to prevent possible pollution of the ground water at his rural retreat. So he installed a Destroilet toilet in the privy on the property.

Unfortunately, visitors sometimes were careless about reading the warning instructions.

When a user rose from the seat, it triggered the instant discharge of a roaring, fan-driven flame into the bowl, incinerating the contents to ash and sending the occupant, in awkward disarray, shrieking into the out-of-doors.

I am of quite modest means, but in my house there are three comfort stations. They are all of the old-fashioned kind – not high-tech but all recognizable, and all dependable – whose operation is easily mastered and does not frighten either the guests or the pets.

Sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone.